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World Tree

(792 words)

Author(s): Vollmer, Ulrich | Staubli, Thomas
[German Version] I. Religious Studies The notion of a world tree appears in a variety of religious traditions, with differing historical and cultural connotations. Fundamental to all is the instinctive assessment of the capacity for ceaseless periodical regeneration observed in trees and plants and its application as a concrete image of the universe. Just as it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the world tree from the related concept of the tree of life, the world tree can also combine various co…

Snake/Serpent

(1,026 words)

Author(s): Uehlinger, Christoph | Staubli, Thomas
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Charms against snakebite and techniques for taming snakes are part of the repertoire of many religions. Frequently repeated, controlled snakebites can make a person immune to the venom and allow it to be used as a drug. The assessment of snakes and serpents varies, depending on whether they appear as enemies (Egyp. Apophis, Indian Vṛṭṛa, Hitt. Illuganka, West Sem. Leviathan, Bab. Tiamat) or as companions and guardians (Egyp. Mehen, Indian Śeṣa) of mighty deities, heroes, or kings. In mythological contexts, hostile ophidian monsters…

Wine

(2,151 words)

Author(s): Staubli, Thomas | Janowski, Bernd | Figal, Günter | Jüngel, Eberhard
[German Version] I. Archaeology and Religious Studies The wild predecessors of cultured vines ( Vitis vinifera vinifera) are found especially in the north-eastern Mediterranean region and in the area of the Black Sea. The earliest evidence of collecting grapes, presumably from wild stocks, is 9,000 years old (Çayönü, Tell Aswad and Jericho). The earliest indications of vine cultivation come from the end of the 4th millennium bce in Egypt (Omari, Abydos, Saqqara). Grapes were eaten, but mostly made into wine; in southern Mesopotamia also into syrup for preserva…

Olive Tree, Olive Oil

(378 words)

Author(s): Staubli, Thomas
[German Version] Evidence of Olea europaea has been found in the Negeb desert from the paleolithic age, and in the Jordan valley from the pre-ceramic neolithic age. From October the olives are picked or beaten off the trees, then crushed and pressed. From the pressed juice the oil is decanted into storage jars. Because of the long period of maturation, anyone who plants olive trees is working for future generations. The oil served as food and fuel, for body care and medicine, its waste as cattle feed. The oil was very important for taxation ( KTU 4, 132 [5]; 1 Sam 8:14; Ezra 7:22). The fi…

Teraphim

(180 words)

Author(s): Staubli, Thomas
[German Version] (Heb. תְּרָפִים), in the Old Testament a household means of divination. A teraph could be tucked away in a camel saddle (Gen 31:19, 34f.), resemble a human being (1 Sam 19:13, 16), and sometimes be made of wood and be part of the cultic inventory of a private sanctuary (Judg 17f.). There is some evidence that teraphim were effigies of deified ancestors (III; Hereafter, Concepts of the). Efforts to identify teraphim definitively with archaeological artifacts associated with the ancestor cult have so far proved unsuccessful. The finds in question i…